12 days of movies

A Christmas Quest To See All The Movies

DAY 3 – 12 Years A Slave

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“Listen man, I know being a slave and all seems shitty right now, but just riiiide it out. At the end of this road is a big mountain full of Oscars for everybody here. Just riiiide it out.”

 

I thought watching and writing about 12 Days of Movies was going to be a gauntlet, but man, it’s not nearly as bad as 12 Years as A Slave.

Day 3 brings us to the unofficial mascot of our blog (due to the similarity in naming scheme), and, by far, the best movie yet to appear on it.

These last three days have been full of lots of cinematic violence. Millions of Orcs beheaded mid-sneer, kids getting hacked and slashed senselessly on a fictional reality show, but the violence in 12 Years a Slave, though not including even a single decapitation or explosion, was by far the most gruesome and visceral depiction of what one human is capable of inflicting upon another.

Steve McQueen’s (director) background as an experimental visual artist serves the film well. The experimental outlays in cinematography and editing that he deploys in this film never feel overbearing or forced, but fresh, creative, and vital. Film, like any hugely commercialized art form, needs to get shot in the arm every once in awhile to keep it moving forward. And no, it won’t be the blockbuster Hobbits or Hunger Games kind of movies that accomplish this inching forward. It’s also nice to see a movie with such heavy subject matter allowed the freedom to have its form toyed with.

There’s a scene where Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is dangling from an attempted lynching, and his feet are tip-toed in the mud, dancing precariously between life and death. Most directors, I would suspect, would utilize this image for maybe a 2 second cutaway, but McQueen lingers on it for what feels like an eternity, and then, unexpectedly, switches the angle, and shows from whose viewpoint the audience has been watching the scene all along. It’s chilling stuff.

In less time than it takes Bilbo Baggins to get from the Dark Forest to the Lonely Mountain, McQueen manages to tell Northrup’s story clearly and freshly, and for that, I’m just fucking thrilled and stuff.

Since this is an Oscar-type movie and lots of really smart people have already written lots of really smart things about it, I will just give up here and move on to random notes, I mean, I’m halfway down a bottle of wine and I have no plans of turning back now. So, just see the movie if you like good stuff. I liked it.

Random Notes:

1) My Dad, who is the one supplying the free-movie passes for this venture, keeps bringing candy to the theater, hidden in his pockets. My God, if I eat another Rolo I may die. It’s really taking it’s toll on me. I keep going to the gym and going on long walks and I know that I am losing this fight.

2) In the early parts of the movie, there was some pretty glaring ADR weirdness. At one point, while Paul Giametti is selling naked slaves in a nice parlor with fanciful music, somebody manages to say something like “yes sir” without his mouth moving at all. THAT’S NOT HOW TALKING WORKS.

3) Everyone speaks in the movie like one of those beautiful Civil War letters you read, all very heavily influenced by the King James Bible, since that’s most of what people read back then. I really liked the way the dialogue was written, and sometimes we forget that every time someone says “Hey buddy, put the girl down,” in a historically-based movie, it’s a huge inaccuracy. People just didn’t speak like that before the last 60 or so years (or something like that).

4) I learned that if you’re a slave, trying to get pen and paper to write a life-saving letter, and then getting it safely mailed off, was slightly harder than trying to take notes in a dark movie theater.

5) Michael Fassbender, who plays the insanely evil Edwin Epps (Northrup’s second owner), managed to make me laugh more than a few times during the movie, and no, the baboon joke was not one of those times (sensitive!).

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DAY 2 – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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So you’re saying that, since we found this massive mountain full of precious metals, our entire system of currency is basically worthless? There will be massive inflation and we’ll have to establish a system of central banks to issue currency and control the value of money, basically putting us on the track towards a modern market economic system? NOOOO!!!!! WHY DID WE COME HERE???

Smaug is a talking dragon.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the second sequel of a trilogy of prequels of a trilogy of movies based on a trilogy books, and somewhere in this recursive nightmare of threes and pres and sequential ordering mythos and numbering hierarchies is a movie and this is the movie that we’re going to be talking about. As Arcade Fire would put it, it’s a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of a

Firstly, and importantly, I saw The Hobbit: The Desolation Smaug in 3D, so that’s three dimensions of the second part of the trilogy that is the prequel to a series of three movies that is the 

Nevermind. 

At some point before the movie, some text came up on the screen instructing the audience (which, coincidentally, consisted of three people) to put on their three dimensional 3D glasses, and then, some trailers played. One was for a movie called Maleficent, which is the 3D re-imagining of the wonderfully 2D Disney Classic, Sleeping Beauty. It stars Angelina Jolie and that girl who is related to that other girl. It was difficult not to notice the shittiness of this 3D experience. All the framing forced the viewer to pick something to look at, as all the shots were wide, full of things moving all over the place, and absolutely everything, no matter what plane it was on (foreground, middle ground, background) was in full, impossible focus. I remember thinking, “The Hobbit won’t be like this. Peter Jackson really takes 3D seriously. The whole movie was created for this medium.” And luckily, I was right. In the beginning of the Hobbit: Desolation Smaug, a conversation between Dumbledore and a Dwarf King takes place, and lo and behold, there was nice, shallow depth of field. The stuff in the background, though obviously “further away” in the 3D illusion, was out of focus, which means it was easy to focus on Ian McKellan’s giant, beautiful, beardy face. 

I did not see the first Hobbit, but I did see the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, even though I never really did figure out what was happening in those movies. But I remember a sword called Sting, and in The Hobbe: DesoSmaug, we find out why it’s called that: It’s because a talking spider said “ow that stings” when the sword was being jabbed repeatedly into its face by Bilbo. Using this naming system, it’s safe to assume that Bilbo got his name when he was being jabbed repeatedly into the face of his mother, and she said ow, that really bilbos. 

In this movie is a lot of racism, as Elves are pretty racist, and the bear man in the beginning is pretty racist (all against dwarves, who are small and “greedy” (I guess we can figure out who they are supposed to allegorically represent (again, Sensitive!))), but what reunites them all is an overarching hatred of orcs, the ugly, muscular creatures who, if I recall from the first (second?) trilogy, make each other out of dirt at the bottom of a big tower, which is, you know, at least probably environmentally low-impact. 

The problem with Orcs as villains is that they are really, really not good at fighting. They are, at their cores, just experts at sneering. They sneer magnificently. What they don’t do is even so much as threaten any of our protagonists (and there are a lot). They just kinda jump from off frame, looking pretty cool with a weapon in their hand and stuff, and then unceremoniously get killed by an arrow or an axe or something, and fall down and litter the ground from whence they came. Which is, you know, annoying for our protagonists, but, not really, you know, that big of a deal. All of the violence in this movie was stylized and extremely sanitized, no good guys ever get killed. There’s not much blood or gore, so it was really pushing for that PG-13 rating. 

Let’s get back to Smaug. Smaug is a smug-ass one-percenter. He sleeps buried in gold. This is obviously some sort of metaphor. At some point, everybody is turning out their pockets just to afford a shitty boat ride into a shitty town, and then they get into this mountain with Smaug, and there is just fucking money EVERYWHERE. It’s like, really, there’s this much money just in this tower? And we’re out there riding in barrels with fish? Jesus, Smaug! Just like, give us some gold so we can sit on a bench on the boat next time, for chrissakes, I mean, I get it, you’re the “mountain king” and this is your “hall” but

Sorry, the 3D got me really immersed in the movie. 

Speaking of immersion, it’s funny how much further this concept gets pushed in the realm of cinema every single year. We really want people to forget that these elves and fucking hobbits aren’t real, some companies are even working on the technology to pump hobbit smell into theaters. I mean, is this really necessary? Hyperreality has already become so much of our lives. Advertising depicts a sexier, more fun life than we could ever have. Video games give us more freedom than we could ever hope for. 3D movies show us beautiful CGI landscapes and dungeons with amazing, extreme colors and atmospheres. When Peter Jackson’s 3D cameras were pointed towards some real, non-CGI mountain or stream, which happened occasionally during the film, not only was it extremely obvious, but, I couldn’t help but think, “well, that’s a little disappointing. That looks just like real life. There’s nothing beautiful or exciting about that at all.”

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?

Random notes:

1) TheHob: DeSmaug runs about 161 minutes. THAT’S AN HOUR PLUS A HUNDRED MINUTES.

2) I didn’t notice anything pertaining to the supposed higher frame rate of these movies. Is that still a thing?

3) ORLANDO BLOOM IS BACK EVERYBODY. HIS FACE KEEPS INEXPLICABLY WIDENING BUT IT’S OKAY. STOP CHISELING THE TOMBSTONE. NO, DON’T CONTINUE WRITING “HERE LIES ORLANDO BLOOM’S CAREER.” KEEP GETTIN’ DEM CHECKS, ORLANDO!

4) Liv Tyler is also in this movie, I think. Actually, I have no idea. I thought it was her. 

5) Ian McKellen is, probably, the best living actor. Just watch him as King Lear. Now that’s righteous. 

DAY 1 – Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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I’m sitting in my Dad’s living room in Port Hueneme, California. My Grandmother walks in. Her tooth hurts. She’s asking what we saw at the movies. We tell her Hunger Games. She says (to my dad) “Oh you poor thing, you must be so sick of it by now.”

Aren’t we all. 

He made me watch the first one last night, which is called, Hunger Games: The First One (I don’t remember), so I would be “prepared” to write about the second one. I thought it would be funnier to just watch the second one alone, no context, but, it was on Netflix and I had vodka, you know how this story goes. 

Anyway, so the movie is like this: It’s communism (or something) in America (maybe) and there are these places called districts. Each district does some specific job (like farming grain) and is comprised of about 100 people living in them, according to the wide shots of the gatherings that occur in the movie, where like, every fucking kid in the district goes to the district square and has to get chosen to choke other little kids to death in the “hunger games,” which are so named because apparently you can get some extra food if you put your name in more times (in the jar, which like, has about 20 pieces of paper in it) for a character who should have been played by Helen Bonham Carter to pick (seriously, she must have said no).   

I know I’m probably confusing the two movies but really, who the fuck cares. I’m jet lagged. 

The districts are apparently racially segregated so black people farm stuff (sensitive!) and white people mine coal. 

The main character is Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer Lawrence is really, really hot according to the internet. I just see a person who was eating rolls in the kitchen at midnight and gets caught, so pretends she really doesn’t have anything in her mouth by gently keeping them bitten down between her teeth, but, unfortunately, they stick out a little into her inner cheek and make her face look like Jennifer Lawrence’s. OK, fine, she’s hot. 

Jennifer Lawrence is a pretty useless human being in this (these) movies. She, like all the other doe-eyed district people are just pussies and get pushed around by “the capital city,” which is the city from The Fifth Element except nicer. She volunteers for her sister after her sister gets picked to choke kids, because Jennifer Lawrence really just wants to choke some fucking kids. This is a big deal and makes her seem great, when really, she just would rather die than mine coal (I’m with you there, Roll Face). 

Choking kids it is.

Jennifer Lawrence’s character is not…physically strong or capable. I mean, storm troopers are always grabbing her and stuff and she just can’t do anything to stop it. She doesn’t run particularly fast, she doesn’t jump particulary high, she’s never shown working out or training. BUT. but but but but. If you put a bow in her hand, she suddenly turns into Bow-Jesus and does barrel rolls all over the fucking place and can shoot screaming birds out of the sky no problem. She becomes agile, fast, has amazing aim, and kills the shit out of some people. 

I really wish she had a bow in her hand when her boyfriend was getting whipped.

In the first one she wins the hunger games after doing some thinly veiled suicide feigning, (oh yeah like you’re gonna eat those berries), and she’s a big hero and everyone wants to have a revolution now. Apparently, taking your kids and making them fight eachother to the death for 74 years is not enough to make you want to have an uprising. 

Like I said: District people = pussies.

Anyway, Lenny Kravitz is there, and he gets finally gets punched to death by Storm Troopers before Jennifer Lawrence goes up a tube to do the hunger games AGAIN. This time it’s in the jungle and she’s only fighting against other winners of the event, so this is like those pathetic cash-grab seasons of Survivor where they bring back people who won before. Apparently, Suzanne Collins likes to brainstorm her books while watching reality television on CBS. 

Hold on, getting wine. 

Anyway, after going up the tube, some people get slaughtered, and there’s a guy who is a total douche who seems like he’s on her team and…. wait…. spoiler alert?

If you see this movie, everything up to this point is like quiet, dramatic, fight the power shit, and like, character development (yawn) then after, it’s just people killing each other and then some twists happen and the plot. goes. hard. 

But yeah. Final Notes:

1) Writing about movies is bullshit, NEVER DO THIS.

2) Everyone in this movie is hot. No wonder our children have such low self-esteems. Someone pass the candy.

3) My little sister is obsessed with bows and arrows now because of this series of books/movies. BOWS AND ARROWS. Like, cool, killing animals is fun, I get it, but why couldn’t J-Law use like the power of *Math* to kill her opponents. 

4) At the end, Jennifer Lawrence ascends into the sky making the shape of a cross with her body. I’M NOT JOKING.

5) I never, ever watch these big, trendy movies based on books. I didn’t watch Harry Potter until THIS YEAR. I’ve seen like five minutes of a twilight movie. But, all said, there’s nothing really offensive about any of that stuff, but if someone you know doesn’t want to watch them, please don’t attempt to force them to. Their lives will be no better after they watch all the twilight movies, and neither will yours. 

6) This Hunger Games sequel was much more solidly made than the first. But, you can go read a real movie review if you care about “filmmaking.” 

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